Baaram movie cast: R Raju, Sugumar Shanmugam, Su Pa Muthukumar, Jayalakshmi
Baaram movie director: Priya Krishnaswamy
Baaram movie rating: 3.5 stars
Much like the premise of Madhumita’s KD Engira Karuppudurai, which was released last year, Priya Krishnaswamy’s National Award-winning film Baaram deals with Thalaikoothal—a socially-sanctioned practice of euthanasia—which is prevalent in the interior parts of Tamil Nadu. While the former takes a lighthearted approach on the subject, the latter is a tad serious and has the vibe of a docu-fiction drama.
The 91-minute Tamil film opens with a Thiruvizha background. We see a local market. Karuppasamy (R Raju) bargains for a flute. He says Rs 10, and the flute seller says Rs 50. For some time, this keeps going. Karuppasamy gets the flute for someone he knows. Considering his age, we assume it was for his grandchild, and we are right. Karuppasamy works as a night-watchman and is away from his son and daughter-in-law. He stays with his sister (Menmoli) Jayalakshmi and her sons. Menmoli is extremely caring and looks after Karuppasamy. We are shown how he enjoys the delicious home-cooked Karuvaatu Kozhambu, as he says, “Kekkadha, eduthu vei.” (Don’t ask, just serve) These scenes look straight out of a close-knit middle-class family.
Menmoli’s second son Veera (Sugumar Shanmugam) and Karuppasamy are more like friends, and they share a good bond. I like how their conversations were free-flowing. One day, Karuppasamy meets with an accident, and his hip gets fractured. Menmoli doesn’t know any of this, but keeps asking her sons, “Maama, enga pa?” Her gut feeling says something has gone wrong. We are shown Karuppasamy writhing in pain. He is unable to move at all. Doctors advise that he gets the surgery done without further delay. Karuppasamy’s son Senthil (Su Pa Muthukumar) doesn’t want to spend on his ailing father and decides to get him home.
Priya Krishnaswamy vividly captures how Karuppasamy is considered a liability (Baaram) at his home. The father, who was once hale and healthy, is bedridden, and feels neglected and unloved by his family. Senthil doesn’t even treat his father as a human being. Karuppasamy finds his place in a room like a pile of old clothes. He is given Pazhaya soru to eat. The little granddaughter is petrified to go near Karuppasamy, but he gives her the flute he got for her several days ago. The visuals do the talking throughout. We see Karuppasamy lying motionless on the bed. At the same time, we witness him experiencing a plethora of emotions.
A son wants his father dead, and what can be more cruel than this? This is the gist of Baaram. Priya Krishnaswamy highlights this “throwaway” culture—i.e. anyone who is considered “unproductive” gets thrown out of the fold right away.
There is this excellent scene where Menmoli visits Karuppasamy. Hesitantly, she asks if everything was good. Karuppasamy nods, saying his son takes care of him quite well. The intuitive Menmoli doesn’t trust her brother. Of course, she knew what was coming. This scene isn’t played for tears. But that’s how it is. It is evident how Priya Krishnaswamy wanted to keep it (the narration) raw, so that people ponder over the message in the film—the inhuman attitude that families have towards the older generation. The director not only establishes that even now this age-old tradition is being followed, but also insists why it intentionally goes unnoticed.
We wish we saw more of Karuppasamy and Veera. We wanted to know more about their likes and dislikes—besides what made them connect so well. R Raju is a fantastic actor. So is Jayalakshmi. Both of them have been aptly cast. Further, we wish the film had a tonal variation. Also, there is not a single unexpected moment.
First, it is important to acknowledge the work done by a filmmaker who wants to stay true to the essence of the story. Second, it is important to appreciate the work done by the same filmmaker who was conscious not to pull off a crowd-pleaser, instead tell a story that she believed in—the way she wanted. Baaram is a more sober affair, with less flash.
It would have been a better film had Priya Krishnaswamy had elaborate character arcs for the main characters, including the reporter, who gets introduced in the second half. We would have liked Baaram more if it told the story of people, instead of an issue, Thalaikoothal. Nevertheless, we liked how Priya managed to present the film on her terms.
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